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The Practice of Everyday Life
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The Practice of Everyday Life

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  2,096 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Michel de Certeau considers the uses to which social representation and modes of social behavior are put by individuals and groups, describing the tactics available to the common man for reclaiming his own autonomy from the all-pervasive forces of commerce, politics, and culture. In exploring the public meaning of ingeniously defended private meanings, de Certeau draws bri ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published December 2nd 2002 by University of California Press (first published 1980)
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I teach this sucker, so there's gotta be some good in it, right? Oh, but it's beastly dense in classic French post-structuralist fashion. Some of it is beautiful - I love his reflection on traveling by rail, and while I prefer Henri Lefebvre's place-space distinction (it makes more intuitive sense that the empty homogeneous stuff would be space and the emotionally marked stuff would be place), the discussion of how maps serve to make abstraction from itineraries (i.e. lived experience) is quite ...more
I'm giving this a full five stars while operating on the presumption that the parts I didn't understand are just as good as the parts I did. de Certeau is by no means an easy read, and I imagine a full comprehension of what he argues requires a facility with many more theorists and disciplines than I have (for example, I loved his critiques and analysis of Foucault and Bourdieu, but couldn't wrap my head around his discussions of Freud and Heidegger largely, I think, because my psychoanalysis an ...more
I echo some of the previous readers' comments about the density and difficulty of De Certeau's sentences - I had to look up words in the dictionary 3 times in one sentence at some point, and this was at the graduate school level. However, I also love love his metaphor of walking in the city as a way of affirming individual ways of doing life, of seeing, of choosing, of practicing everyday life, in contrast to mainstream ways that society is constructed, as expressed in the metaphor by the set ro ...more
رغد عبد الزهرة
كتاب مُرهق من كتب اللغة الجديدة :) كما أُسميها
مُتعب بالنسبة لغير الأكاديميين لكن فِيهِ فلسفة جيدة .
Candy Wood
If I needed an explanation for not going into sociology, this book would provide it. Do we need a 200-page book to examine “the practice of everyday life”? I feel a bit like the centipede worrying about which foot to start out on. Still, there are some interesting insights: the tiny chapter 8, “Railway Navigation and Incarceration,” could stand alone as an essay on the strange relationship to space experienced by passengers on a train, and I was surprised and delighted to find a reference to Ver ...more
Jeff Lee
Superb book that I'm re-reading. The notion of tactics as ways of finding agency in otherwise restrictive conditions of life is very helpful in my research into non-commercial and non-institutional creativity. Don't know yet whether De Certeau can be looked to for dealing with criticisms that this view of agency is limited without any sense of systemic political change. May need to see some more of his work after this one.
This is the first time I've ever read a work of theory and felt like I was hearing my own thoughts, more clearly articulated, more grounded in the literature, but expressing impressions and preoccupations that were my own. I will reread it, quote it, act on it.
Way too wordy, dense, and heady, but full of wonderful ideas that assume the agency and capability of regular people. We aren't just consumers! We are doing things! The world is terrible, but every day we are resisting in really small ways. Isn't that great to hear?
Hard to understand at first, but as you keep reading it, it starts making sense. de Certeau looks at how ordinary people through their everyday practices and embodied experiences reclaim their autonomy, and resist power structures.
Revisiting de Certeau for my diss revisions - helpful, frustrating, and thought-provoking all at once.
Matthijs Driesen
The writing is too thick. As usual with French intellectuals, he ought to have stepped off his high horse and sieved his language a little more. But I guess that to publish in France, it is mandatory to beat about the bush. If your understanding of French isn't very advanced, do find a translation, because this is a tough read. I read it three times, making notes. It is a shame that the reading experience is so very painful, because the points De Certeau makes are -very- interesting. In fact, he ...more
Linda Stewart
When I read the first paragraph of the introduction, I knew I had found a theoretical home. Michel de Certeau's "investigation of the ways in which users--commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules--operate" is about freedom, resistance, access, and the art of "dwelling" in the everyday. Reading de Certeau validated all the ways I have been teaching inductively. My practice was found in his theory. A reversal of good fortune. Be certain to read Chapter 7 - "Walking in the Cit ...more
The Practice of Everyday Life is a tribute to the ingenuity of the everyday person. It's a set of essays, and should be read this way (he seems to contradict himself - at time a structuralist and at other time a post-structuralist). He describe contemporary societies as transforming from verbal to visual. The ordinary (the ants, the weak) cope with their circumstances by being creative and circumventing the cards they are dealt. He believes people in everyday life don't follow scripts but they c ...more
An absolutely incredible perceptive trail through modern urban life, told with a voice that seems to understand the heartbeat of a city.
This was awesome- some of his analyses are incredibly beautiful. Some are completely incomprehensible. I advice following the translator's advice (from my edition at least) and reading parts 3-5 before reading 1-2. I didn't and 1-2 were very confusing and theoretical and I had a difficult time following much, especially not knowing a ton about the context in which the book was written. However, parts 3-5 were very enjoyable and moving to read. Would highly recommend if you're interested in philo ...more
John Carter McKnight
As rewarding as it is challenging, this should be required reading for anyone in the humanities or social sciences. The Practice of Everyday Life is a turn from "producer studies" in the humanities and STS, turning the focus from authors, designers and engineers to the user. Excellent set of tools for thinking about games, "piracy," remix culture and a wide range of topics of contemporary interest.

No short review can do this magesterial work justice. Read it. Just be warned, it's *very* dense an
'Like the skill of a driver in the streets of Rome or Naples, there is a skill that has its connoisseurs and its esthetics exercised in any labyrinth of powers, a skill ceaselessly recreating opacities and ambiguities - spaces of darkness and trickery - in the universe of technocratic transparency, a skill that disappears into them and reappears again, taking no responsibility for the administration of a totality. Even the field of misfortune is refashioned by this combination of manipulation an ...more
Interessante theorie over hoe consumenten geen hersenloze schapen zijn, maar juist onbewust en actief omgaan met wat de technocratische macht hen voorschotelt. Zo schrijven we en mythuseren we de stad door shortcuts te nemen bv. Had alleen wel 80% korter kunnen zijn, had de Certeau de obligate woordspelingen en parodieën kunnen laten. Helaas, als epigoon van het Frans post-structuralisme kon de Certeau dat blijkbaar niet loslaten. Kortom: verrijkend voor doorbijters.
Apr 19, 2008 Andrew added it
Shelves: theeeeeeory
OK, so I know this was very influential on the transition between the study of representation and production and the study of practice and use. Despite that, other than a few select chapters, I found the book borderline unreadable. I can handle Foucault, Barthes, and Baudrillard just fine, and while Deleuze/Guattari is a stretch, I can still do it. This, on the other hand, just struck me as unreadable, and largely bullshit. So I can't say I was a fan, you know?
Megan Adams
DeCerteau's ideas about looking at the stories inherent in histories. Although his prose can be hard to follow at times (he is a french philosopher). I think his overall claims about the powers of discourse, and the composition of theory and everyday life as a series of stories is helpful and intriguing to consider. I plan to give this book a closer read in order to consider his ideas thoughtfully; it's definitely a book to make time to sit with.
Sarah Pearlstein
Dec 07, 2008 Sarah Pearlstein is currently reading it
So far - I feel like DeCerteau was a kind of a wonder - he spoke about resistance from a peculiarly Catholic/Decon. subjectivity - he self-negates by privileging the spoken word above the written life of the letter, as being the realm of voices and, in a sense, revelation.... He strikes me (without having read much Levinas) as being an almost New Testament version of Derrida's Levinas, at least..... I look forward to reading more of him!
Andrew Schroeder
Exceptionally relevant theory/philosophy embedded into labyrinthine and dense language. Perhaps it is a bad translation, but this book has taken me numerous passes through in order to make sense.

Especially relevant to my work and ideas is de Certeau's concept of strategies and tactics... but... with the writing as it is... good luck deciphering...

Zoe Hungerford
I was sceptical when I first saw a class on 'Everyday Life' at my university, but intrigued enough to enrol in it. This book, much like the class, was long and difficult - though it completely changed the way I write about phenomenology in other classes. An eye-opening look that, in the very least, challenges the ordinary, and, at best, will alter paradigms.
Feb 12, 2013 Randy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Read the section, "Walking the City", which is great.
Just read a brief bio on de Certeau:
and am trying not to gush with enthusiasm -- new hero found. Will read through the other chapters soon and am interested in picking up other titles by the author.
Fantastic book from a Jesuit priest who seems to know Foucault better than anyone. I'm not sure that his distinction between tactics and strategy can be maintained as neatly as he makes, but it's a helpful approach into seeing the ways in which every day people can "make-do" with the systems of power and production within which they/we operate.
Jan 06, 2011 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: theory heads.
Shelves: theory
"Walking in the City" was the most useful section, in my opinion. The translation can be rather dense (I don't know if that reflects the French) and I found this very difficult to understand.

This is a book for the interpretation of the habits of consumers - consumers of space, materials, stories etc.
Jan 31, 2008 Za rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: social scientists, anyone interested in philosphy
Recommended to Za by: Paul Robbins
This book is about the actions we take affecting and changing the systems we operate in, so instead of the actor or the system being the focus, the operation or "way of being" is the focus. It has many profound insights into modern consumerism and the economy, but is also very theoretical.
Rather convoluted. This is what keeps me reading, from the Introduction: "ways of reappropriating the product-system, ways created by consumers, have as their goal a therapeutics for deteriorating social relations and procedures of everyday practices. A politics of such ploys should be developed."
Mar 14, 2007 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Media students.
Actually, this can apply to anyone...what he essentially boils all of society down to is a form of Marxism. Yet, he doesn't believe we're going to expose capitalism and crush it, we already see the rabbit in the hat now we're figuring out what to do with it. These are the processes he describes.
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Spatial history 1 25 Jun 24, 2010 06:32PM  
  • The Production of Space
  • The Condition of Postmodernity
  • Outline of a Theory of Practice
  • Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity
  • The Arcades Project
  • The Location of Culture (Routledge Classics)
  • Space And Place: The Perspective of Experience
  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • The Culture Industry
  • Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
  • The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • Marxism and Literature
  • Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
  • The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
  • Image, Music, Text
  • Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory
  • The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective
  • Time and Narrative, Volume 1
The Writing of History The Possession at Loudun Heterologies: Discourse on the Other The Mystic Fable, Volume One: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries Practice of Everyday Life: Volume 2: Living and Cooking

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“To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper. The moving about that the city mutliplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place -- an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations (displacements and walks), compensated for by the relationships and intersections of these exoduses that intertwine and create an urban fabric, and placed under the sign of what ought to be, ultimately, the place but is only a name, the City...a universe of rented spaces haunted by a nowhere or by dreamed-of places.” 23 likes
“To practice space is thus to repeat the joyful and silent experience of childhood; it is, in a place, to be other and to move toward the other...Kandinsky dreamed of: 'a great city built according to all the rules of architecture and then suddenly shaken by a force that defies all calculation.” 9 likes
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